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Published
Oct 03 2016

#4TDW Making the Switch: Moving from a Paper to a Digital Writer's Notebook

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As my district moved to a 1:1 environment with Chromebooks for all students in grades 5-12 a few years ago, I couldn’t help but be excited about the possibilities of moving to digital writer’s notebook.  Afterall, wouldn’t that be a more authentic, modern writing experience for students?  How many of us handwrite a draft of anything these days?  For me, the majority of my writing happens digitally, with my drafting, revising, and editing happening concurrently as I type, rather than as discrete steps.  For many students, their out of school writing happens this way, too: on social media and in messages to friends.  Despite this, I also wondered if some intangible part of the writing process would be lost or if the magic of having such a linear, messy paper notebook would hinder students’ thinking.  And to be honest, after years of trying various systems--paper, digital, and all of the above--the jury is still out of which system worked best, which maybe is how it’s supposed to be.  Maybe a writer’s notebook should fit the writer, not the other way around.

 

Over the past two years, I have tinkered with various ways to bring the traditional paper writer’s notebook into the digital realm in ways that weren’t just substitutions--this is the hard part sometimes.  Just because we have the tool (yay Chromebooks!) doesn’t mean we should use it for the sake of using it.  I wanted the students’ digital writer’s notebooks to transform their writing somehow: make it collaborative in ways it hadn’t been before, make it more authentic, but also make it come more easily for those students who felt the tedium of being forced to handwrite prior to typing.  

 

I’m not sure I accomplished all of these things, but I learned a lot from students and from trying out various systems.  I will be facilitating a session as a returning featured speaker about my journey to digital writer’s notebooks and what I found out at the FREE 4TDW Virtual Conference on Digital Writing on Sunday, October 9th from 3:00-4:00pm.  In this session, I will take participants through my journey from paper to digital writer’s notebooks (and back again and in between both worlds), discuss instructional considerations when making the switch, and the logistics of digital notebooks compared to paper notebooks.  I will also share some tools teachers can use to help support this transition.

 If you’d like to get a sense of my early journey with going paperless and Chromebooks, click over to my blog posts here and here.

Hope to “see” you there!

Jianna Taylor (@JiannaTaylor) is the ELA Curriculum Coordinator for the West Bloomfield School District.  Prior to this role, she was a middle school ELA and Title 1 teacher.  She is a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and an Oakland Writing Project Teacher Leader.  Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.  She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine School Library Connection.

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Thanks for this post and for the upcoming session (which has not yet happened as I write this). I appreciate the honesty of not quite knowing how things will settle into place as you move into more digital notebook writing with students, and the observation that writing on paper does not (should not?) always translate directly into writing in digital. But that likely is the starting point, right? The question is, what does the digital notebook afford us to do that the paper does not? And vice versa. I am still a sucker for pen on paper for much of my poetry and songwriting, but for longer writing, I have to be on my computer. It might be different for you, for someone else ... and that's a wonderful thing, in a way -- how each of us develops techniques to tap into what works best for us. Do you let any students opt out of digital writing notebooks? Kevin
Thank you for posting about an important topic that needs to become more prevalent to everyone around the world. Nowadays, we are converting everthing in the classroom, in our homes, or whatever it may be in our personal lives to digital devices. I feel as though if I look around and don't see someone with a technological device in my college classes that it is just plain weird. One thing I am very passionate about is informing others that if someone feels comfortable with a particular method that it IS OKAY. If you prefer using an old school wooden pencil and paper (which seems as though you can't find anywhere) then do it, but if you want to type your notes and do assignments or whatever it may be through your laptop or tablet do that. I believe that we should do what we want without judgement or too much choice.&nbsp; Again thank you for publishing a post on a topic that needs to be discussed more.&nbsp; Teghan&nbsp; &nbsp;